Marine Geophysical Researches

, Volume 31, Issue 1–2, pp 59–76 | Cite as

Seismic imaging of gas hydrates in the northernmost South China sea

  • Tan K. Wang
  • Ben Jhong Yang
  • Jia-Ming Deng
  • Chao-Shing Lee
  • Char-Shine Liu
Original Research Paper


Horizon velocity analysis and pre-stack depth migration of seismic profiles collected by R/V Maurice Ewing in 1995 across the accretionary prism off SW Taiwan and along the continental slope of the northernmost South China Sea were implemented for identifying gas hydrates. Similarly, a survey of 32 ocean-bottom seismometers (OBS), with a spacing of about 500 m, was conducted for exploring gas hydrates on the accretionary prism off SW Taiwan in April 2006. Travel times of head wave, refraction, reflection and converted shear wave identified from the hydrophone, vertical and horizontal components of these OBS data were applied for imaging P-wave velocity and Poisson’s ratio of hydrate-bearing sediments. In the accretionary prism off SW Taiwan, we found hydrate-bearing sediment, with a thickness of about 100–200 m, a relatively high P-wave velocity of 1.87–2.04 km/s and a relatively low Poisson’s ratio of 0.445–0.455, below anticlinal ridges near imbricate emergent thrusts in the drainage system of the Penghu and Kaoping Canyons. Free-gas layer, with a thickness of about 30–120 m, a relatively low P-wave velocity of 1.4–1.8 km/s and a relatively high Poisson’s ratio (0.47–0.48), was also observed below most of the bottom-simulating reflectors (BSR). Subsequently, based on rock physics of the three-phase effective medium, we evaluated the hydrate saturation of about 12–30% and the free-gas saturation of about 1–4%. The highest saturation (30% and 4%) of gas hydrates is found below anticlines due to N–S trending thrust-bounded folds and NE-SW thrusting and strike-slip ramps in the lower slope of the accretionary prism. We suggest that fluid may have migrated through the relay-fault array due to decollement folding and gas hydrates have been trapped in anticlines formed by the basement rises along the thrust faults. In contrast, in the rifted continental margin of the northernmost South China Sea, P-wave velocities of 1.9–2.2 km/s and 1.3–1.6 km/s, and thicknesses of about 50–200 m and 100–200 m, respectively, for a hydrate layer and a free-gas layer were imaged below the remnant and erosional ridges in the upper continental slope. High P-wave velocity of hydrate-bearing sediment below erosional ridges may also indicate high saturation of hydrates there. Normal faults due to rifting in the South China continental crust may have provided conduits for gas migration below the erosional ridges where P-wave velocity of hydrate-bearing sediment in the passive continental margin of the northernmost South China Sea is greater than that in the active accretionary prism off SW Taiwan.


Bottom-simulating reflector (BSR) Converted shear wave Free gas Ocean-bottom seismometer (OBS) P-wave velocity Poisson’s ratio Pre-stack depth migration (PSDM) Saturation Three-phase effective medium Travel-time inversion 



We appreciate the team work for conducting surveys through the NTOU’s OBS group. This research was continuously supported by the Central Geological Survey, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan since 2004.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tan K. Wang
    • 1
  • Ben Jhong Yang
    • 1
  • Jia-Ming Deng
    • 1
  • Chao-Shing Lee
    • 1
  • Char-Shine Liu
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Applied GeosciencesNational Taiwan Ocean UniversityKeelungTaiwan
  2. 2.Institute of OceanographyNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan

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